Leave a bank and trouble follows

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The Independent Online
Banks are fond of shouting about how easy it is to move your account to them. But what is less well known is how tricky it can be to clear up your affairs if you are leaving a bank.

I recently received a call from someone to whom I had written two modest cheques a few days before. He said the cheques had been returned to him by his bank because the account they were drawn on was closed.

The problem arose because my original letter informing Barclays of my intention to move to NatWest had gone unacknowledged. Receiving no reply, I continued using my account as normal. The first I knew of it being closed was when I received a closing statement several days after the event.

I took back the "bounced" cheques, plus another written to a local trader, and wrote out fresh ones against my new account. But what was harder to sort out, and to put up with, was the apparent disappearance of a cheque that I had paid into my old account - at about the same time as I wrote those others.

While dealing with the original cheque problem, I was assured that the paid-in cheque would have been passed over to my new account. But when the first statements from NatWest arrived and showed no sign of the deposit, I phoned my old bank again. The picture that emerged was not encouraging.

At first, it seemed that the cheque had been rejected because the account was closed and that it was waiting somewhere for somebody to make the right connections. Then, in the course of the phone call, I was told that it had been returned to the person who wrote it - risking me not getting paid.

In fact, this was not what had happened. The writer of the cheque had not received it back and it now seems an effort was made to transfer it to NatWest, but failed. Barclays has now offered pounds 50 by way of apology and sent a new cheque for the "lost" amount. But the feeling remains that this bank at least has no clear policy on how to handle outgoing transfers.

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